Friday, June 25, 2010

Medicare Pay Cut Rescinded in House 417-1 Heavy Pressure by Voters

Tags: Medicare Cuts Rescinded Republican Political Delaying Tactics Hypocrisy Bush Vetoed Bills to Prevent Cut and Republicans Did Not Pay $2 Trillion Spending

After extended delays by Republicans to stop this bill to prevent a 20-30% cut in payment to doctors, voters prevailed. Unfortunately all the delaying tactics by Republicans will not be emphasized by the corporate press and media. Unfortunately Americans have a very short term memory because their brains are filled with so much junk that there is no room to remember facts that will make their lives better.

Republicans refuse to allow a vote on the unemployment continuation bill needed to prop up the economy. It has nothing to do with the deficits since these same voters Bush to conduct Wars, Health Advantage, and especially the two tax cuts benefitting primarily the wealthy without paying for it, which increased deficits by Two Trillion Dollars or $2,000,000,000,000!

... House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) loudly balked, calling the bill a "great disappointment." She blasted Republicans for not supporting the overall legislation. "I see no reason to pass this inadequate bill until we see jobs legislation coming out of the Senate." ...


From Medscape Medical News

House Passes 6-Month Delay in Medicare Pay Cut

Mark Crane June 24, 2010 — After another week of tough political wrangling and more twists and turns than a roller coaster, a 6-month "doc fix" that rescinds a 21.3% cut in Medicare reimbursement to physicians passed the House of Representatives tonight, 417-1.

The bill, which is retroactive to June 1 and also provides a 2.2% rate increase, was passed by the Senate on June 18 and will now be sent to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Because Congress had not acted by last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) told its contractors to start paying claims at the reduced rate a week ago. It had held up the claims until then, expecting Congress to act.

The claims are being processed on a rolling, first in/first out basis, said the American Medical Association. Claims submitted earlier are now being paid at the reduced rate, while newer claims will continue to be held for a 10-day period until the president can sign the legislation into law.

CMS has acknowledged that uncertainty about the fee cuts and delayed processing may present cash-flow problems for some physicians, but it expects the delays to be resolved soon. Claims that have already been processed will be adjusted automatically without physicians having to resubmit them, the AMA said.

The ups and downs of the doc fix were remarkable, even by Washington standards. Today's vote almost didn't happen. The Senate had passed the 6-month delay last Friday after having rejected a 19-month delay the day before. In addition to that version of the doc fix, the previous measure included jobless benefits, cash assistance to state governments for their Medicaid programs, and dozens of tax breaks for businesses. All Republicans plus 1 Democrat and 1 independent opposed it because the total $118 billion package wasn't paid for and would add to the deficit.

While many expected that the House would quickly pass a similar 6-month delay, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) loudly balked, calling the bill a "great disappointment." She blasted Republicans for not supporting the overall legislation. "I see no reason to pass this inadequate bill until we see jobs legislation coming out of the Senate."

That was last Friday. After initially saying this week that she would not schedule a vote until the Senate passed the overall "extenders" bill, Pelosi relented at her news conference today. "It's clear that the Senate will be unable to pass the larger bill," she said. Therefore, she decided to allow a vote on the 6-month doc fix as a stand-alone measure.

The $6.4 billion measure was offset by changes in Medicare billing regulations, antifraud provisions, and the tightening of some pension rules. That dealt with GOP objections that it would add to the national debt.

Before the vote in the House, members of both parties accused each other of negligence for not enacting a permanent fix of Medicare payment cuts, required under a decade-old formula called the sustainable growth rate. Reimbursement rates for Medicare would have been cut on a yearly basis, but Congress has deferred the cuts 9 times since 2003, almost always just days before they would take effect.

Medical organizations expressed their disgust with Congress.

"This squabbling is intolerable," said Lori Heim, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "Political infighting over the Medicare physician payment fiasco has gone on far too long. It threatens access to care for elderly and disabled patients and for members of our armed services and their families. It seriously undermines physician confidence that Medicare will reliably pay for the services already rendered. It undercuts the foundation on which health care reform is to be built."

The American College of Physicians (ACP) expressed similar warnings. Unless the cuts were reversed, tens of thousands of physician practices were "facing the real possibility that they will have to lay off staff, miss payrolls, limit how many Medicare and military families they can accept, or even close their doors," said ACP President J. Fred Ralston Jr, MD, an internist in Fayetteville, Tenn.

"It is past time for politicians from both political stop blaming someone else for the impasse," Dr. Ralston said. "Physicians and patients don't want to hear that it is the Democrats' fault, or the Republicans', or the President's, or the Senate's, or the House's. "They want to hear that members of Congress have agreed on a long-term solution to replace the unworkable SGR."

Even when it appeared that the 6-month delay would pass earlier this week, the AMA condemned the temporary fix as inadequate and blasted Congress for "kicking the problem down the road."

"Congress is playing Russian roulette with seniors' health care," said AMA President Cecil B. Wilson, MD.

The delay expires November 30. New payment cuts will then be imposed unless Congress reverses them.

In December, Medicare reimbursement will be cut 23% and increasing to nearly 30% in January, the AMA said in a statement.

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